New Report Cards Track Illinois School Wellness

March 14, 2013 | Written By:

A new report card for Illinois schools has been developed, and we’re thrilled to see that it includes a school wellness section. HSC proposes an even more comprehensive school wellness indicator, as well.

Report cards aren’t just for students — they can also be an important tool for sharing eye-opening information about your school overall.

A new report card for Illinois schools has been developed, and we’re thrilled to see that it includes a school wellness section. A bit of background: More than a decade ago, the No Child Left Behind Act started a number of measures to hold schools accountable for performance. For example, to receive key funding for schools, states must prepare and publish annual report cards for each school that detail performance, promote transparency and accountability and empower both parents and educators to hold schools to higher standards.

Originally, Illinois’ school report card was a 15-page report that would be tedious for the average parent or teacher to read and process. But back in 2011, Governor Pat Quinn developed a task force to revise the card for easier comprehension and better results. HSC advocated for the inclusion of a health and wellness section to this new report card.

The task force resulted in a new, well-designed report card, which will debut in the coming school year. We are excited to see that it includes a Health and Wellness section. You can view a sample of this report card through our friends at Advance Illinois, and find where the report notes free breakfast programs, physical education course offerings and more.

This new report card a fantastic step in the right direction.

We believe, however, a report card could provide even more information about school wellness, to create an even more powerful resource for positive change.

Our proposal: an expanded, user-friendly wellness indicator [pdf].

Key updates about this potential new wellness indicator:

  • We have met with more than 20 stakeholder groups, including Chicago Public Schools, the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition, Illinois Association of School Nurses, teachers’ unions and public health organizations to create a user-friendly tool that evaluates schools on a number of key areas.
  • We narrowed the focus of the evaluation to 20 questions, with sections on Indoor Environmental Quality, wellness (including mental health and anti-bullying programs), school health services, physical education and nutrition.
  • This wellness indicator could be an interactive component of the new school report card, allowing readers to explore areas of focus and possible improvement.
  • We have been working with our partners to create a version of the criteria translated for parents who may not know the terminology used by school administrators.
  • One barrier we hope to address with our partners and stakeholders: the state, and schools within the state, need the capacity and support to collect this data.
  • The wellness indicator would put actionable information into the hands of parents and allow them to engage their schools in efforts to promote health and wellness.
  • Including this indicator would establish Illinois as a leader in supporting student health and wellness.

We presented recommendations to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), and we were pleased to have them express their support for this new indicator. Moving forward, HSC will continue to engage with the ISBE and other stakeholder groups to build support for this fantastic potential resource.

Regardless, we applaud the state for adding a school wellness section to the new school report card. This move will help school communities (parents, teachers, school administrators, school nurses, facilities managers and, above all, the students) to rally around school health and hold each other accountable for making positive change and celebrating past achievements.

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